Top Five Best Alternative-Rock Music Bands: These Bands Still Stand the Test of Time


As a former alternative-rock radio disc jockey, I’ve always been a fan of alternative-rock music. Ever since I began playing it on my radio show in the mid 1980s, I couldn’t get enough of it.

Over the years, more and more bands have classified themselves as ‘Alternative Rock’. Some are great, some not so great, but which are the five best? There are so many amazing alternative rock bands, it can be hard to narrow it down to just top five, but these are what I classify as my five favorites simply because they’ve passed the test of time.

5. Barenaked Ladies – This Canadian alternative rock band has been in existence for more than 20 years. With such hits as ‘Brian Wilson’ and ‘The Old Apartment’, and for their funny lines and silly chat when they’re up on stage, Barenaked Ladies are one of my top ten bests.

4. Bauhaus – British band Bauhaus was one of my top five alternative rock bands when I started out as a radio D.J. and they’ve never left the list. ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ holds up as well today as it did almost 30 years ago. Peter Murphy, the lead singer, left to pursue a solo career and the band broke up.

They’ve gotten back together a couple of times but broke up pretty much permanently around four years ago. After Murphy left, the remaining band members of Bauhaus formed two other groups – Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets, and they actually did better than Bauhaus did when it came to popularity.

But, you can’t beat Bauhaus’ ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ and ‘Telegram Sam’, if you love the depressing stuff.

3. XTC – Oh I just loved XTC. From ‘Senses Working Overtime’ to ‘Dear God’ and ‘Making Plans for Nigel’, their brand of pop music with a bit of funk and reggae thrown in always made me happy. Over the years, they released 14 albums, but the best one by far is ‘The Big Express’. XTC, another British alternative rock band, unfortunately, broke up permanently a couple of years ago.

2. The Cure – Probably one of the most famous alternative rock bands, and another British one, The Cure are still together and recording.

For 30 years, they’ve been on the cutting edge of alternative rock music with such hits as ‘Friday I’m in Love’ and ‘Pictures of You’, and singer Robert Smith is still one of the sexiest men in alternative rock, if you ask me.

1. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians – I couldn’t get enough of British alternative rock artist Robyn Hitchcock with his funky lyrics and bizarre brain. I even met him once backstage at a concert I was master of ceremonies at in Cincinnati, Ohio. We had a weird conversation about lobsters but every second was so worth it.

A lot of Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians music is about food, and death or sometimes a combination of both. Robyn is mostly a solo man nowadays, his partnership with the Egyptians being pretty short lived but he’s done some work with Andy Partridge from XTC and even recorded a cool Bryan Ferry cover ‘More Than This’. For quintessential Robyn Hitchcock, check out ‘I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl‘, ‘I Often Dream of Trains’ or ‘Balloon Man’.

What’s surprising, when I look back on my favorite alternative rock bands and, especially on these top five, none of them are American. There’s something about the British, with a Canadian or two thrown in, that just seem to produce better alternative rock than most American alternative rock bands.

I do like Green Day, Dinosaur Jr., and The Posies but, for me, they just don’t quite stack up against the British bands – somewhat sad, but true.

About Michelle Topham

Brit-American journalist based in Austria, former radio DJ at 97X WOXY, and Founder/CEO of Leo Sigh. I've covered K-drama, K-pop, J-pop and music news for over a decade.